School-Based Strategies to Reduce Suicidal Ideation, Suicide Attempts, and Discrimination among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adolescents in Western Canada

Int J Child Youth Family Stud. 2014 Jan 1;5(1):89-112. doi: 10.18357/ijcyfs.saewyce.512014.


This study explored the relationships between the existence of and length of time since implementation of school-based Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and explicit anti-homophobic bullying policies in secondary schools across British Columbia, Canada, with experiences of anti-gay discrimination, suicidal ideation and attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB), mostly heterosexual, and exclusively heterosexual students. Analyses of the province-wide random cluster-stratified 2008 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey (n =21,70 8) compared students in schools with GSAs or policies implemented at least 3 years, and less than 3 years, with those in schools without GSAs or anti-homophobia policies, using multinomial logistic regression, separately by gender. LGB students had lower odds of past year discrimination, suicidal thoughts and attempts, mostly when policies and GSAs had been in place for 3+ years; policies had a less consistent effect than GSAs. Heterosexual boys, but not girls, also had lower odds of suicidal ideation and attempts in schools with longer-established anti-homophobic bullying policies and GSAs. Given consistently higher documented risk for suicidal ideation and attempts among LGB and mostly heterosexual adolescents, prevention efforts should be a priority, and school-level interventions, such as GSAs, may be an effective approach to reducing this risk, while also offering prevention benefits for heterosexual boys.

Keywords: adolescent; gay-straight alliance; homophobia; school policy; school-based surveys; sexual orientation; suicidal ideation; suicide attempt.